Discovering Personality – The Big Five Model

Over the first few days of the new year, I’ve took the course on the big five model of personality — “Discovering Personality.” It was a fascinating refresh of the big five model and had the opportunity to go deeper into the understanding of the two aspects for each of the five factors.

It was helpful to understand the amount of statistical rigor that went into building this model, although as noted in the lecture, the names of the factors I think is somewhat poorly done and feels more biased than neutral.

The key takeaways from the lecture were being able to better understand myself beyond what I had before, especially around the aspects of conscientiousness and how these aspects interact with other factors.

Throughout the course, the underlying assumptions I had about working with other people shifted quite a bit, in terms of how diverse people really are and how to really engage with them to discover the work they could be successful in and deeply enjoy.

One of the phrases that I believe is actually misleading and could even be harmful is “just be yourself.” If one has a growth mindset and is a continuous learning self than a fixed being, just staying at your status quo is a pretty risky place to be at, given the competitive and fast changing nature of the modern society.

But after finishing the course, I think there’s a bit of nuance and negotiation I have to make with my own beliefs on this one. Yes, our brain’s plasticity allow use to forever learn and grow and change and adapt, but there is a natural tendency in our personality, partly born and partly developed, which tend to manifest itself even at our early childhood. Everyone has a certain proclivity based on their inherent personality and through development and social interaction, we can possibly expand the ranges a bit and also move towards the edge of the proclivity, but the further you go towards the boundaries, the harder it becomes for the person to endure.

So that’s a compromise. Yes, you can change and grow and learn, but there is a natural point of your personality that you start from, so one can’t expect nor demand you to restart somewhere totally different on the spectrum of personality factors with determination. What could look sad, but might actually be relieving is that it’s easier for someone to find a job that fits that person than the person adapting to the job, if the job’s requirements are too far off from where your proclivities are.

Just to share a bit about my own five factors and personal notes:

  • Extraversion: Very High (95%) — Notes: Feels a bit higher than I would rate myself (instinctively, I would rate myself around 80%)
    • Enthusiasm: Moderately High (70%)
    • Assertiveness: Exceptionally High (98%)
  • Neuroticism: Exceptionally Low (0%) — Notes: I thought I would rate higher than this, but maybe I’m confusing my conscientiousness around safety principles and “what could go wrong and let’s plan for it” with Neuroticism, given that below two aspects feels quite spot on.
    • Withdrawal: Exceptionally Low (1%)
    • Volatility: Exceptionally Low (1%)
  • Conscientiousness: Very High (95%) — Notes: Feels about right.
    • Industriousness: Exceptionally High (98%)
    • Orderliness: Moderately High (71%)
  • Agreeableness: Exceptionally Low (0%)
    • Compassion: Exceptionally Low (0%)
      • Notes: This is a bit surprising. I would agree that I did start very low in my 20s for sure, but over the past decade or so, I’ve worked hard to gain understanding of others and empathy, so kind of a bit disappointed. :’-(
    • Politeness: Exceptionally Low (0%)
      • Notes: This is absolutely true. Something that I’ve always struggled as a child growing up in Korea was listening to authoritarian adults and I simply couldn’t understand why we had to follow just because they were senior, adult, or with power.
  • Openness to Experience: Moderately High (71%) — Notes: Feels about right, but one of the aspect “Openness” feels a bit lower than I thought.
    • Intellect: Exceptionally High (96%)
    • Openness: Low (21%)
      • Notes: I found the result to be somewhat off, as my mother and sister both were quite into art and music (and design) and I find myself heavily interested in architecture and enjoyed the creativity tests (Torrance Test/Guilford Test) before. But I would agree that I don’t like spending almost any time in music and art as I’m biased towards being quite pragmatic (e.g. design/architecture vs fine art)

And before you start judging me further, these words have specific meaning in the context of the personality assessment, so I’d recommend taking the test yourself here. It’s a paid test, but I’m not affiliated. 🙂

Now, back to 2020 Q1! The world doesn’t sleep!

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